New member, help with assessing new project

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Sep 9, 2013
Branchburg, NJ
Hello everybody,

New to the forum and although beaten long ago by the FJ bug, I am just now contemplating starting a project. Specifically, to pick up an unfinished project, do some work myself and then assemble.
A couple of questions:
- I am looking for some help to assess the completeness of the project and the magnitude of the risk. Maybe also somebody local in NJ or northeast that we could even meet up and exchange more specifics. Still getting my bearings on local clubs etc.
- For those of you having undertaken a frame off or major restoration projects, is there such a thing as a list of important questions to ask or a core parts list that would help me assess completeness and possibly also give me a flavor of necessary investment? The project involves a new aluminum tub and cowl, majority of parts will be from original truck that was disassembled.

Thanks in advance, I acknowledge that each project is unique and therefore difficult to generalize, maybe not hopefully.

It's going to take longer than you think, cost more than you think and take a lot of commitment.

Search here on mud, look at the date stamps, read a lot about exactly what you want to do (mods, paint, upgrades, alum. tubs, engine work etc.)

If you can get your hands on a truck that has everything (or almost) working, that's a good start. almost everything on a 40 can be rebuilt. A complete truck that has not been cut into in terms of wiring or major modifications is best. If you buy an uncompleted project, you will need to find out which parts are missing. Unless you know a lot about the vehicle you're looking at, it's near impossible to make a list of what should be there. A complete running truck is the best start.

You need to know more about what you want to end up with to be able to get an idea of price. Paint alone can run from a few hundred bucks to 15+k for a showpiece, let alone engine and drivetrain.
I dunno, but if you have never had a 40 and are not exactly sure what you are getting, I'd suggest you pick up a running one - just my 0.02 cents :meh:
It's going to take longer than you think, cost more than you think and take a lot of commitment.

A complete running truck is the best start.


I'd suggest you pick up a running one - just my 0.02 cents :meh:

Even then, there can be many surprises if uniformed and unaware.

Picked up a seized 2F yesterday that, reportedly, had and was a big selling point, ~500 miles on a fresh rebuild, installed in a relatively clean, running at the time of purchase, 79.

Sure the "restored and rebuilt" was a huge selling point on the particular 40 and can only imagine the sale price, considering it was obviously by someone unaware, so probably paid eBay $$$.

Fancy idler...


Exhaust was (welded) solid from manifold to tail pipe, block was stripped, and had an extra special dosing of RTV applied in a "finger bead" method in certain areas, junk in the pickup that I wouldn't think typical of a rebuild.

Sad, but the new owner got to drive less than 100 of those miles before dropping ~$4k on a swap. (The $4k is an assumption based on knowledge of where the swapped 2F originated and the two weeks it occupied the shop of a local facility)

That said, and though a different classic Cruiser, I spent a year researching before purchase and STILL wound up making a piss poor decision on the particular starting point I began with.

Now, my budgetary spreadsheet has been deleted and I'm looking at well over a year and a half to go, when I felt comfortable with a six to nine month completion.

C'est la vie....
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My 2 cents for what it's worth is this: 1) Buy a good candidate for a restore meaning all or most (99%) of the original parts are there. 2) Stay away from CANCER RUSTY CRUISERS. 3) Have a bunch of Money in the bank to use for the restore and then, have more money set aside ( worst thing is to start crossing that river and get stuck in the middle and not be able to finish ). 4) Have a bunch of time set aside. Some guys will not agree but I say have time set aside so that you complete your restoration within 15 months. 5) Finally, read and follow the advice of all the Mud Members, at least consider everything they say since they have been where you want to go. 6) Have fun with whatever project you start but choose carefully. Unless you know that every part is there on a disassembled cruiser I would steer clear of it and buy an already running cruiser. Also it is much easier to restore a newer FJ40 ( 1970 - 1983 ) then it is a very old one. Parts are easier to find if you need them. You might have to spend more to find a good candidate but if your goal is to restore it then you'll be saving money from the get go if you find a nice one to work with. Good Luck and post pics when you get started.
I just got my first FJ this spring. Never was much of an import guy but my dad is. But I did learn how to drive on an old 40 so I have a soft spot for the rigs. Every project is going to be diffrent and will eventually take you down it's own path. I have yet to "Complete" any project I've started, and they always take you down a diffrent path then you originally thought.

My two cents, buy a rig, have a general idea of what you want to do with it, write a blank check and see where she takes you. But I'm a "rookie" so you may not want to my advise. :)
I purchased my '76 as a complete rig minus the motor (SBC, but came with all adapters, etc), where I had a motor to drop in. Body was straight, minimal rust, paint shot. Drove it for 5 years, and other than the "skinny pedal" getting me in trouble a time or two, very minimal issues. After that it got limited use for the next 3 or 4 years until I decided to "refurb" it. Left the tub on, but took the rest of the body parts off, stripped it to metal, treated rust, epoxy primer and paint. Also had the motor gone through, Saginaw PS, new hinges, seat frame built, front bumper fabbed, shackle reversal, and tons of small stuff I'm forgetting.
Because I did it all out of pocket, and did all the work myself, it took about 2 1/2 years to do. Since I had owned it for almost 10 years BEFORE I really dug into it, it had sunk itself into my being, and that was a saving grace. That's because I very distinctly remember walking out into the garage more than a few times, and after seeing an exploded FJ40 laying everywhere, was rocked to my core thinking "What the F#@K did I get myself into?". Mix that with the $300+ trips to NAPA and the paint store, multiple high $ orders to CCOT, SOR, and others, and the COUNTLESS hours in the garage, it's a lot to take on. And remember, mine was a "complete" and driving truck when I started. I can't imagine starting from where mine was at the depths of the "rebuild" as my first venture into the LandCruiser world.
The guidance others have given, buying a running truck as your first, is very sage advice. I would say that MOST of the "project" rigs for sale out there are the result of a first-timer, such as yourself, getting in over their head. Not knowing you I would never say you're not capable of doing it, but I think the task of reconstructing a dismantled vehicle is more suited for someone a bit further along in the hobby. Your chances of succeeding are greatly increased if the starting point is something you could drive, and bond with. Fixing small stuff to start out and getting to know the quirks of the thing will serve you well down the road. It will also let you figure out what you want to do to the rig, and where you want it to end up, all for much less $ than the trial and error a newbie has to endure.
I wish you luck with whatever rig you end up with. They really are worth all the effort.

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Vanc Lake Side.jpg
Vanc Lake Side.jpg
The only way I would buy an unfinished project was if I had 3 or 4 other unfinished projects in my shop to make them all into one complete rig
and then after the money spent to acquire the projects I could of bought one decent complete running rig. Lol.

Buy a decent complete rig drive it for a year and see if ya even like it and then rip it apart


Sent from iPhone :cheers:
it is quick and very easy to take a cruiser apart. takes almost no money and not much time.
cleaning parts up, fixing parts, trying to find/buying parts and finally putting the parts back together to form a 40 series again takes much much more time, money and patients. when you have taken the time to forge a bond with the thing before you took it apart, it is so much easier to justify spending stupid amounts of money on parts for a decades old truck.
i drove mine for a decade before taking it apart. three years after doing so, it is almost finished.
every time i turn the lights off and right before closing the door to the shop, i have a days of thunder moment with the cruiser. i think that is because i drove it for so long, know what i have been missing these last few years and know what is so close at hand again. the thought of giving up has never even entered my thoughts. i don't know if that would be the case if i just bought something, took it apart and then tried to put it back together again.

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